Japanese gaming population rising, market falling

New CESA report says nearly 40 percent of Japan's population are gamers--but they're spending a lot less on software and hardware.

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TOKYO--The number of gamers in Japan is on the rise, according to a recent report published by CESA (Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association). In a report titled "2004 CESA Research Report on the General Public in Japan and Korea," CESA revealed some interesting findings about the state of gaming in the two countries.

According to the CESA study, 37 percent of the Japanese population actively played games in 2003--a 12 percent jump from 25.6 percent in 2002. That means Japan had about 34.4 million gamers last year, compared with 23.6 million in 2002. CESA estimates that Japan currently has about 8.97 million people that play games on their mobile phones, and 3.43 million people that play online games.

Of the non-gamers who responded to CESA multiple-choice survey, 65.9 percent responded they "don't have any interest" in games. The second most popular reason given by non-gamers was that they just "don't have the time" (64.4 percent). However, 46.1 percent of the 1,070 non-gamers and gamers surveyed said that they thought games were a part of Japan's culture.

Ironically, while more Japanese citizens are playing games, they are apparently spending less money. Another CESA report showed that the overall size of videogame market in Japan is on the decline, shrinking 11 percent from 2002 to 446.2 billion yen ($4.11 billion)--about 60 percent of its peak in 1997. Hardware sales for 2003 in Japan were down by 16.7 percent to 137.2 billion yen ($1.26 billion), and software sales also sank 8.2 percent to 309.1 billion yen ($ 2.85 billion).

CESA also conducted a survey in Korea, where 61.8 percent of the population played games in 2003. The majority of Korean gamers--66.3 percent--played online PC games. Offline PC games ranked second at 19.8 percent, while console games trailed far behind at just 4.9 percent. CESA estimates that only 14.8 percent of gamers in Korea actually own a PlayStation 2, the top-selling console in the country, while only 9.3 percent own a Game Boy Advance.

For 56 percent of Japanese gamers in and 36 percent of Korean gamers, the top factor in choosing a game was "favorite genre." When it came to reasons why the gamers in the two countries enjoyed playing games, Japanese gamers picked "getting more opportunities to talk with friends and colleagues" the most, while Korean gamers selected "getting to learn and use computers and the Internet better" as their top choice.

For more details on CESA’s research on gaming in the two countries, the full 168-page report is available on CESA's Web site for the retail price of 5,250 yen ($44).

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